Larry Dell Alexander (born May 30, 1953) is an American artist, Christian author and teacher from Dermott, Arkansas in Chicot County. Alexander is best known for his creations of elaborate colorful, and black & white “pen and ink” drawings in his “crosshatching” , or “hatching” technique, and, his personal rendition of a “Clinton Family Portrait” oil painting which he gave to U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1995. He is also known for the Arkansas Schools Tours that he did between 1996 and 2006. He has written several devotional Bible studies commentaries on several New Testament books of the Christian Bible, and has also created many drawings and paintings with strong Christian themes over the years.
Early life and career
Born in the small rural town of Dermott, Arkansas to Robert and Janie Alexander, Larry is the fourth of ten children and the second of the union of his parents. His father was a truck driver, and his mother was a beautician. Alexander began drawing at about the age of four. He never received any formal art training during any level of his schooling while growing up, as none was available in his small rural hometown. After graduating from Dermott High School in May 1971, Alexander moved to Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where he studied Architectural Residential Design at Pines Vocational Technical School, now Southeast Arkansas College. In later years he also attended Richland College in Dallas, Texas were he studied AutoCAD.
Today, six pieces of his work from his popular “Dermott Series”, a series of paintings he painted about his childhood home of Dermott, are now a part of the permanent collection at the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Alexander’s work is mostly influenced by his experiences in life, such as growing up in the rural south during the 1950s and 1960s, as well as his life in Detroit, Michigan during the 1970s and 1980s.
Alexander moved to Detroit, Michigan after two years of school in Pine Bluff to seek employment in his chosen field. However, he was unsuccessful in the short run, and instead, he ended up finding work in a Chrysler auto assembly plant and became fascinated with the innerworkings of cars. This led him to become a certified mechanic, a craft he worked at for the next seventeen years. He ultimately met and married his wife, Patricia while living in Detroit, and they moved their family to Irving, Texas where he opened his own auto repair shop and operated it until 1991.
Encouraged by Patricia, he began using his art talent for the first time in fifteen years. His career as a professional artist can be traced back to this point as he developed his “pen and ink” style that he calls “crosshatching“, and used it to create several lines of greeting cards under his, now defunct, “Alexander Greeting Cards Company” name. Between 1991 and 1994 he created over 80 pieces of “pen and ink” fine art, including “Renetta”, “Girlfriends”, “Cowboy Fiddler”, “Young Kennedys”, and “Roundup”. He also used many of his drawings on his “Fine-arTshirt” T-Shirt line of the mid-nineties.
Alexander is also a “realist painter” who works in a variety of other mediums including oils, acrylics, and watercolors. He is a self-taught artist who chooses mostly to do exhibits in venues that provide mainstream exposure to a large variety of people such as festivals, schools, malls, libraries, banks, art institutions, and even U.S. Post Office branches on occasion.
The Dermott Series
In early 1996 Alexander finished and released his popular “Dermott Series”, a 20 piece collection of oil and acrylic paintings that offered a nostalgic look back at his childhood of growing up in rural southeast Arkansas. The paintings feature images of people, buildings, and sites of Dermott, Arkansas, such as a cotton gin, his childhood house, where he went to school, and other images. Alexander said at the time that, “I did the Dermott Series for many personal reasons, and I’m overwhelmed by the response this collection is creating here in Texas”. The series includes, “Birthplace”, “Where I grew up”, “Picking Cotton”, “Cotton Gin”, “Hot Grits”, “In the kitchen with mama”, and the old Chicot County High School, among others.
The Detroit Series
In 1999 Alexander unveiled his “Detroit Series”, a series of oil and acrylic paintings of various sites in Detroit, Michigan at the American Black Artist Institute on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit. The nine piece series includes paintings on Belle Isle Park, the Detroit skyline, the Detroit River, Hitsville USA (the original home for Motown Records), Greektown Historic District, the old Tiger Stadium (Detroit), the old J.L. Hudson building, former mayor Coleman A. Young, and many more.
The Delta Series
In May 1998 Alexander unveiled his “Delta Series, which was painted entirely with acrylics, during “the Arkansas Schools Tours“. The tour was expanded that year to include stops in Greenville, Mississippi and Memphis, Tennessee. This series included paintings of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain region from Monroe, Louisiana to Memphis. It includes a painting of Graceland, Elvis Presley‘s former home, the landmark Greenville Courthouse in Greenville, a perspective of Beale Street in Memphis, and his classic rendition of a “Cotton Farm” among others. Another piece from the Delta Series, “Aunt Eira Mae” was donated to the permanent collection of The African American Museum (Dallas, Texas) in 2004.
The Series of P.A.T.R.I.C.E
Alexander has also donated work to art departments of schools and colleges. In October 1996 at halftime at the inaugural football game, billed as the “Mobil Gridiron Classic”, at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas, Alexander presented a piece from one of his series, “The series of P.A.T.R.I.C.E”, to the president, and the chancellor, of the participating colleges, respectively, Texas Southern University and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
The Sixties Series
Alexander’s most popular Pen and Ink art series, “The Sixties Series” has been exhibited in schools, libraries, and art institutions in several places since it was completed in 1993. It consists of elaborate drawings of well known figures and events of the 1960s, such as the civil rights Selma to Montgomery marches of 1965, and portraits of Martin Luther King Jr., Lyndon Johnson, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and Rosa Parks. This series also covers the Vietnam War.
The theme pieces in the collection are a piece called “Composite Sixties”, and one called “Composite Protests”, which make up a composite of people, places and events that were prominent in the 1960s. For example, they show images of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard M. Nixon, the United States presidents who served during the sixties, also J. Edgar Hoover, Jackie Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, an image of U.S. astronauts landing on the moon in 1969, and many of the American protests that took place during this turbulent decade, to name a few.
African-American history book
In 2001, Alexander finished his first book called African-American History at a Glance, which also included several pen and ink drawings of African-Americans who have contributed substantially to the American success story. “There is a lack of input regarding African-Americans in the American history curriculum of schools all over America” Mr. Alexander says. “There are a lot of schools that offer it as a choice to students, but I think it should be a part of regular American history“.
Alexander’s book was used to help create a supplemental text, that was later put together by the Irving Independent School District to help improve the American history curriculum in the high schools of Irving, Texas in 2002. His book deliberately ignores the contributions of African-Americans in the areas of sports and entertainment, as he feels they are already too well known and over-emphasized in society. Alexander says in his book that, “By no means is this an attempt to downplay the prowess of these particular individuals, or to discourage other individuals who aspire to excel in those areas. This publication is intent on bringing to the forefront, some of the African-American contributions that have historically been largely ignored”.
In 2006, Alexander wrote his second book entitled Sunday school lessons from the book of the Acts of the Apostles, which deals with his calling by God to teach the Holy Bible. Sunday school lessons from the book of the Acts of the Apostles was the first of a trilogy that he self-published over a one year period. It was followed in late 2006 by the second book of the trilogy, called Sunday school lessons from the Gospel according to John Mark. The final book in the trilogy, Sunday school lessons from the Apostle Paul‘s letter to the Romans was released in mid-2007. His other books include Home Bible study commentaries from the Gospel of John in 2008, and Home and Church Bible study commentaries from the Book of Hebrews in 2009. Alexander also writes a weekly on-line Sunday school lesson commentary based on the International Sunday School Lessons curriculum.
The Arkansas schools tours
Alexander and his cousin Lawrence “Larry” Crockett, both natives of Dermott, Arkansas put together the first “Arkansas schools tour” in 1996, and in May of that year, visited ten schools in seven cities in four days. Crockett and his son, B.J., both traveled with Alexander on the initial tour, while they were on a one-week break from the tour of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical Carousel, which B.J. had a role in at the time. After the first year however, the tour was continued on by Alexander alone through 2007. Alexander says he wanted to give back to his home state of Arkansas and be a blessing to the children who live there, and, because of the success of the first tour in 1996, Alexander decided to continue doing it once annually for the next ten years. Its major objective was to instill hope and encouragement in the children of Arkansas, and to aid them in making good choices during the developing stages of life. These annual visits to high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools, were also conducted to instruct and encourage children in pursuing their goals and careers in the visual arts, as well as other areas, and to stay away from illegal drugs. It was during the second tour in 1997 that Alexander incorporated his anti-drug slogan “Eradicate Drug Use Common Among Teens Everywhere” (EDUCATE). Alexander usually ended his tour with a two-day art exhibit and print signing at the Dermott, Arkansas Crawfish Festival.